What do we have here then? A piano instrumental, with a perky little riff, strong notes of – deep breath – Russ Conway…
On the Rebound, by Floyd Cramer (his 1st and only #1)
1 week, from 18th – 25th May 1961
For the first twenty seconds of this record, which I’d never heard before, I was beginning to envision myself giving it a terrible write-up. Cheesy, irritating, repetitive… And it is. But. Unlike, say, Russ Conway’s records (sorry Russ, I do end up picking on you every time an instrumental #1 comes along, but you were awful…) there is a lot more to this than just the piano.
Thirty seconds in the main riff drops away and we get a little blast of honky-tonk swagger, drenched in ‘ooohs’ from the backing singers, which acts as a prelude for the brilliant moment one minute in when it all breaks down and we’re left with drums, clapping and a natty little bassline. Russ never did anything like this… This is pretty funky. Then the violins come in for a little call-and-response with Floyd’s piano. By the time the main piano riff comes back, lifted up by the backing singers, it all makes sense. And by the end, as the riff is deconstructed piece by piece and we finish with a thump, you’ve actually enjoyed it.
I feel as if I must know this song from somewhere, that I have heard it before in an advert, or a movie… It sounds really familiar. The only thing I can find is that ‘On the Rebound’ featured in ‘An Education’, a film I saw once, years ago. It surely cannot have lingered in my subconscious for so long just from that… Or maybe this is simply a sign of well-written, nicely executed little tune – that it sounds ubiquitous even when it’s not. This is a lost gem of a number one single, its week at the top buried among the leviathans of early sixties pop: Elvis, The Everlys, Cliff. It sounds simultaneously old-fashioned – this could be 1955 and that could be Winfred Atwell at the piano – and modern – the rock ‘n’ roll swagger that the drums, the guitar and the handclaps lend means that this isn’t 1955 and that certainly isn’t Ms. Atwell. The piano instrumental, though, has proved a surprisingly resilient genre over the course of this countdown… We haven’t had a trumpet, or a violin instrumental hit the top for many a year but the piano keeps on popping back up!
Anyway, now the song is done we can focus on the main event of this post – Floyd Cramer himself. This is his one and only week as a credited chart topping star. Note, though, the emphasis on the word ‘credited’… Because the list of songs on which Cramer featured as a session pianist is mighty impressive. We’ve already heard him in the background on ‘All I Have to Do Is Dream’ by The Everly Brothers, ‘That’ll Be the Day’ by The Crickets, ‘Only the Lonely’ by Roy Orbison, and on Elvis’s ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ We’ll go on to hear him on pretty much every other Elvis #1 from here ‘till 1963. The list of classic hits he featured on that failed to top the UK charts is also pretty darn impressive… *clears throat*… ‘Heartbreak Hotel’, ‘Wake Up Little Susie’, ‘The End of the World’, ‘Big Hunk ‘o Love’ and, oh yes, ‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’ (which I’m providing a link for because, hey, it’s the right time of year.)
However, Cramer struggled to score another ‘solo’ hit in the UK, and so the record books will know him solely for ‘On the Rebound’. He was known for his ‘slip-note’ style of piano playing, in which he would ‘slip’ from an out of key note into the correct note (sounds like an excuse I should have tried during my ill-fated attempt at keyboard lessons – “I didn’t play the wrong note, Sir, I was just playing in the ‘slip-note’ style. Haven’t you heard of it?”) It is this trick, I think, that gives the main riff it’s annoyingly perky, jangly feel, but what do I know? Floyd obviously felt it worked for him.
One final thing… Why’s it called ‘On the Rebound’? Honest answer: who knows? If I’ve learned one thing while writing this blog it’s that you can give an instrumental whatever the hell name you want.